44 – It’s A Palindrome

I had a birthday recently.  I am now 44 years old. Yippee.

What to say about 44?  For starters, it’s a palindrome (the same thing forwards and backwards).  And. Um.  And…and I think that’s it.  I suppose I could add something about how when you divide it by two, you get another palindrome (22).  And if you divide by two again, you get a THIRD palindrome (11).  Guess I’ll have to wait until I’m 88 before I see excitement like THAT again.

When it comes to getting older, most men have a very strong (make that impenetrable) filter that blocks out what is happening to our brains and bodies.  We never allow ourselves to see the whole, rapidly degenerating, picture.  Instead we see what we want to see, which generally has us nodding appreciatively and saying, “Hey, not too bad.  I still got it!” while our wives and significant others shake their heads sadly.

I’m no different.  For example, I tell people that I play full court basketball every week.  Truth is, I play on a two thirds court, but since it’s more than a half court, I round up.  And I only play with others in my age range (no 20-somethings to make us feel slow or ground bound).  These are just two of dozens of shielding mechanisms used by the Captain of the Filter.  His mission?  Keep out any and all data regarding graying hair, sagging muscles, and my sudden inability to remember ANYTHING that isn’t written down.  And then, one day – a day that starts no differently from the one before it – the filter becomes completely clogged with overwhelming data and the truth comes pouring in.  As you will see below, it is NOT an enjoyable day…

Not too long ago, I found myself on an elevator with an attractive young woman who was wearing a T shirt that read, “Ithaca is Gorges”.  Anyone who has been to Cornell has seen many versions of this punny quote (which refers to the beauty of the campus coupled with the many stunning gorges that appear majestically under long suspension bridges), so I turned to her, smiled with as much charm as I could muster and said, “Did you go to Cornell?”

“Yes I did!  I just graduated.”

My smile widened.  “Well”, I said with a self deprecating chuckle, “I’m much older than you, but I also went to Cornell.”

“Really?!”  Now she’s got a big smile too and, heaven help me, the only thought in my head is “I am GOOD!!”

I cock my head, implying deep interest in her answer and ask, “Did you enjoy your time in Ithaca?”

“Oh yes, it was fantastic!  I had the BEST time!”

“Me too.  A wonderful experience.”

“What year did you graduate?” she asked.

“1986”, I answered.

I heard a sharp intake of breath which I saw was followed by a HUGE smile.  I was in the process of telling myself, “Man, you haven’t lost a STEP.  You’ve still got it!” when she lowered the boom.

“Wow, that’s so COOL!!  I was BORN in 1986!”

My smile froze.  I could feel the Captain of the Filter desperately shouting orders to block ear canals, suppress language comprehension – anything to stop that statement from reaching my brain.  I heard him screaming, “Abort! Abort!  Get off the elevator!!!  DO SOMETHING!!”

The girl, oblivious to my growing distress, was genuinely thrilled to have discovered this absolutely amazing coincidence.

None of my synapses seemed to want to fire properly.  I opened my mouth to speak, but all that came out was an unintelligible “Flurgle!” as the battle in my head raged on.  In the end, despite the Captain’s herculean efforts, he was forced to surrender.  At that moment I heard – really heard – what the girl had said, and it hit me like a sledgehammer: I was flirting with someone I could have fathered as a senior in college, and who, in the intervening years, had had enough time to grow up and graduate from college herself.  I felt sick to my stomach.

I realized that I was staring at her with my mouth open. Before she decided to call the paramedics to treat what must have looked to her like some kind of seizure, I said, “Uhhh.  Thanks.  Thanks for that.  I think I’ll skip my floor and ride the elevator to the roof.  I’m going to admire the view and then I’m going to throw myself off.”

It was a brutal day.  The veil, once dropped can never be replaced.

And so, I repeat:  44.  It’s a palindrome.  Hooray.

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17 Responses to 44 – It’s A Palindrome

  1. Alexander says:

    I’m weeping!

  2. Justine says:

    You and Elevator Girl could double-date with John’s new 22- (palindrome!) year-old roommate. This was a great post, and remember that you are still a very attractive and appealing young man to a 65-year-old!

  3. sabine smouha says:

    t’es trop drole ! we love you and you are now in your 45th year, happy birthday!
    ****Sabine

  4. Sandy says:

    C’est génial : c’écrit avec BEAUCOUP, BEAUCOUP d’humour ! Bravo ! Bravo ! Or should I say “Hooray!”

  5. Debbie Stier says:

    Oh, it’s not that bad David. You’re not even middle aged yet. Put the goggles back on. It’s ok. We forgive you.

  6. Jeremy says says:

    You became old the day you gave up squash, young man! Some people are still playing

  7. George says:

    Are young kids calling you “sir” yet?

  8. tim dean says:

    you give me courage

  9. David says:

    this happened in YOUR building!!

  10. David says:

    Yes, “some people” are. But are you? anytime you’re ready for a match, less-young-man!

  11. David says:

    everyone but my kids

  12. Eyal says:

    Funny story- still entertaining, even now, the fifth time I have heard it. I will give you a bright spot to consider. You turned 44 as we are swearing in our 44th president. One that is universally admired (he’s older than you, but not by much- oh yeah, this is supposed to be positive) – there is a nice symmetry there. You can build on this. but back to the “gorges” girl—did you tell her you were looking forward to packing the wife and your FIVE kids into your Honda minivan and driving up for your 25th reunion? (okay-it’s a couple of years away- but at your age, you need to plan ahead). You even have your outfit picked out- your tan cords, the Pink Floyd reunion concert shirt, and your Adidas Superstars. All that was left was transferring your mixed tape collection onto your Ipod. I think that could have helped keep the conversation going or at least given her a chance to stand there confused with her mouth wide open.

  13. John says:

    Son, you clearly just need some new material. It is safe to assume that Paul Newman — were he not otherwise engaged at the moment — would not have lost a step. The older you get, the wiser you get, which means that you CAN make this verbal judo work on your behalf.

    Just be sure to use that power for good instead of evil. You know, five kids, minivan, all that.

  14. John says:

    And another thing. You’re not really old until you walk around the apartment looking for your glasses until you find them like I just did — not on my forehead but on the bridge of my nose, where they’re supposed to be. I can only imagine that this would not impress the lovelies, palindromic or otherwise.

  15. Ann Kingman says:

    I’m going to refrain from any snarky comments (this hits just a bit too close to home), and just wish you a very Happy Birthday!

  16. Susan says:

    I love what you write. Unfortunately with the great advance I have on you , I can but smile and think: “he’s learning poor fellow!”
    Enjoy every minute of every day, and all you HAVE at this precise moment. It’s the BEST. It only gets worse!!!!!
    I look at photos I never wanted taken and think “Wow, I wasn’t THAT bad, I should have had more done at the time!” Each day is better than the next!

    A VERY HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY anyway, from your mentalpaused Tisue

  17. Ben says:

    Happy Birthday!!
    For a present I got you a card to slip under your feet when you take a jump shot. I hope it’s not too thick!

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